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Alienware 55 OLED Gaming Monitor (AW5520QF) review: Epic gaming display, but epic price doesn't add up

The Good Games look spectacular and play that way at 120Hz over DisplayPort.

The Bad It's way too expensive given the tradeoffs, which include no future-proofing with HDMI 2.1 and relatively low brightness.

The Bottom Line The Alienware 55 OLED Gaming Monitor is a great gaming monitor, but the price premium over a standard OLED TV is hard to get past.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Review Sections

Every now and then I review a product which both beguiles and befuddles me. The Alienware 55 OLED Gaming Monitor has been bedeviling me in that way since it landed in the office less than two weeks ago. Beguiling, because at 55 inches it's huge -- for a computer monitor, at least -- with the broad gamut, vivid colors, spectacular blacks and superfast pixel response OLED is known for. It's also a looker, in the striking Legend design system the company rolled out in early 2019. But also befuddling, because I can't make sense of it as something someone would want to buy over an alternative, like the $1,600 2019 LG C9 series, given the Alienware's $4,000 price tag. For $3,000, maybe. For $2,500, probably.


It may be thick on the bottom, but it's ultrathin on top.

Lori Grunin/CNET

It's important to understand that nothing compares to OLED for gaming. The technology wins the image-quality trifecta of contrast (because black pixels are truly black), color gamut (a minimum of over 90% UHDA P3) and color accuracy (because of its relatively pure spectral intensities). Plus its pixels turn on and off as close to instantaneously as you can get, which minimizes ghosting. Unlike most movies, games also push the limits of color, as computer graphics actually use all those maximally saturated colors at the edges of the gamut that aren't found in nature.

From that perspective, you just want to park yourself in front of the Alienware 55 and game until you're evicted.

Why a monitor?

As a monitor, the Alienware does offer some advantages over a TV like the LG. In the absence of HDMI 2.1 support -- stick a pin in that topic, for the moment -- its DisplayPort 1.4 connection is probably the biggest difference. It delivers the bandwidth necessary to support 4K at its maximum 120Hz refresh rate rather than at the usual 60Hz. (Higher refresh rates give you more headroom for synchronizing the frame rate of a game with the display, which helps avoid artifacts.) Plus, 120Hz can also make simply viewing the screen easier on your eyes than 60Hz, depending upon how sensitive you are and what you're watching.

It also has familiar monitor perks, including four USB-A ports, two in an easily accessible location on the side. In this case, it gives you somewhere to stick your wireless dongles and devices with long cables. 


On the left side is an HDMI connector, two USB-A ports and a headphone jack.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Beneath the screen you'll find standard monitor controls, and it comes with a snazzy remote with two halves that snap together with magnets -- and which come apart (but don't break) when you drop it. The onscreen display's options bear more similarity to a monitor's than a TV's as well.

If you're familiar with Dell monitors, you'll recognize the Smart HDR modes -- in this case, game, movie, desktop and reference -- which report to Windows whether it can toggle its HDR settings. If you've chosen the game setting, Windows can enable it for games or wide-color gamut. If you want it for movies, you'll have to enable that setting instead. 


The Alienware 55 next to the Alienware m15 R2 laptop. The command center software didn't recognize the monitor to control the lighting, though, so I couldn't sync them. The back panel attaches via magnets, making it easy to remove when you need to access the connections.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Additionally, it has various game-type presets, such as for first-person shooter and real-time strategy games. Each visibly changes the white point and gamma of the display in order to, say, increase the brightness in shadow areas. FPS changes the display most dramatically, boosting the brightness so you can make out shadow detail. 

But I frequently found myself switching among them midgame in Borderlands 3 -- to FPS when I needed shadow detail, but back to anything else afterward, because FPS made it too washed out and had a greener cast in order to boost the brightness. You won't find crosshair options; OLEDs are especially susceptible to burn in, so you wouldn't want one sitting on the screen for hours on end.

The Alienware 55 design matches the latest gaming gear from the company, such as the Area-51m laptop. Being an Alienware, naturally it has custom lighting, which you can set via the onscreen menus or when connected via USB. 

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